From counterculture to mainstream, the perception of graffiti in Austin has transformed in recent decades as murals and street art appear more prominently around town.
In the process, a select few artists have carved out successful careers doing commission graffiti work for individuals, local and national retailers, tech companies, and others. As business opportunities arise, artists who used to survive on the fringe are now seeing consistent demand for their graffiti work. Some projects can command checks in the mid-five figures.
At the end of the day, I am my own boss and I get to work for me, and I’m doing the work for them, but ultimately I’m working for me. I’m not really changing who I am for them, which to me would be the sell-out aspect of it.
It’s still my lights. It’s still my car bill. It’s still my rent. And I’m not really conflicted on a moral level in terms of a lot of my clients, because at the end of the day, they need art.
–Austin graffiti artist Mez Data
Mez Data is the subject of an upcoming ORIGINALS episode where we document how he grew his business, art, and music. In the process of filming that piece, local photographer John Langmore followed Mez at his home in East Austin, during a DJ gig at downtown club Plush, and while painting a tribute piece off Oltorf and South 5th St.
The entire photo gallery is available exclusively to our subscribers.
Quick aside: All photos are from pre-quarantine.